Warnings to preserve town

Bosses in charge of shaping the future of King's Lynn have been given plenty of food for thought by a top heritage buildings advisor. Speaking as a resident of King's Lynn, English Heritage chief executive Dr Simon Thurley said to keep the town's rich historic character, and for it to succeed, it was vital new developments like the South Quay grain silos site and the proposed marina were designed to fit in to their historic environment.

Bosses in charge of shaping the future of King's Lynn have been given plenty of food for thought by a top heritage buildings advisor.

Speaking as a resident of King's Lynn, English Heritage chief executive Dr Simon Thurley said to keep the town's rich historic character, and for it to succeed, it was vital new developments like the South Quay grain silos site and the proposed marina were designed to fit in to their historic environment.

At the King's Lynn Preservation Trust's annual Lady Evershed Memorial Lecture at the Town Hall on Tuesday night, he said out of scale identikit designs would be the town's ruin.

Dr Thurley, who has been living at Clifton House, a listed former merchant's house in Queen Street, for about 18 months, said: “We are living through a period of extraordinary change, there are cranes and bulldozers everywhere.”

The town had so far managed to mostly avoid being marred by modernism, apart from the College of West Anglia's building, Hillington Square and the Vancouver Quarter, due to thoughtful planning, he said.

“The question is, will we continue to benefit from this care, what will happen to the grain silo on the Quay?” he said. “This site is vitally important to Lynn's future and its image.

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“We are in danger of having an imported identikit marina that could be built anywhere.”

To save the town's distinctiveness, which would be its saving grace, he said good use had to be made of redundant historic buildings, like the post office, independent shops needed to be encouraged and the town's markets, that had fallen on their feet, needed to be built back up using local produce.

His greatest fear was the buildings at the marina would be bigger and blockier than those on Hillington Square.

But the root of everything was money. The council, as land owners of many important sites in the town, would have to be very careful not to sell land to developers at too higher price so that they would create cheap buildings to reap their money back, like the Vancouver Quarter, which he said was 'possibly the cheapest development of its time I have seen'.

However, he was full of praise for the council and their plans for the town.

He said Tuesday Market Place was the best market square in England and King's Lynn was a gem with 247 grade II, four grade II star and a very impressive 13 grade I listed buildings.

Jason Law, portfolio holder for regeneration on the council, said: “The ideas are great what is good is his presence will help promote them. There are no real answers but it is a good warning this is what we need to look out for.”

He said the marina was only at a masterplan stage but that to build only two storey buildings on the site, as Dr Thurley had suggested, would most likely not make it economically viable.

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